Nogales mayors speak about border violence
Octavio Garcia-Von Borstel (left), mayor of Nogales, Arizona, and Marco Antonio Martinez Dabdoub, mayor of Nogales, Sonora. Manuel C. Coppola photo

NOGALES — Mexico needs tourists and the news media overplaying of the violence that has plagued the border is harmful to Ambos Nogales, say the mayors of the two cities of Nogales.

Octavio Garcia-Von Borstel, mayor of Arizona city of Nogales, and Marco Antonio Martinez Dabdoub, mayor of Nogales, Sonora, seeking to reassure tourists and shoppers that the border is safe, held a joint news conference Dec. 23 at the Morley Avenue Pedestrian Port of Entry.

To make his point, Garcia-Von Borstel pointed to a front-page article in a Tucson newspaper that reported Fort Huachuca officials had warned soldiers not to travel to Mexico.

“The post has always required that soldiers gain permission” from superiors before traveling abroad, he said. “This is nothing new.”

To help ensure the safety of shoppers and tourists, Garcia-Von Borstel said that municipal police and the Border Patrol in the United States have stepped up bicycle patrols along the Arizona side of the border.

On the Sonora side, Martinez Dabdoub said tourist police stand at the ready not only for security, but to serve as a resource to orient travelers to help create a “safe zone.”

In addition, Mexican federal special military forces remain in Nogales, Sonora,  where murders are up more than 200 percent. The unofficial count for 2008 was 130 homicides, compared to 51 in 2007.

Garcia emphasized the killings are among the criminal element, particularly the drug cartels.

“There has not been a homicide in Nogales, Arizona, in recent history,” he said. “That is something the Nogales Police Department and me as mayor are very proud of.”

Martinez Dabdoub said tourism is of vital importance to the Mexican economy.

“We want visitors to have the certainty that in Mexico they will be received with open arms because we need them so that our citizens won’t have the necessity to migrate illegally to our neighboring country and that they are not tempted to turn to illicit activities,” Martinez Dabdoub said.

 Manuel C. Coppola is editor and publisher of the Nogales International, a newspaper owned by Wick Communications, which also owns Inside Tucson Business.